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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Takeaways from 5 Degrees

Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 12, 2014
First Published: 10:25 IST(12/1/2014) | Last Updated: 11:29 IST(12/1/2014)

What does it take for the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to wake up to a restaurant-cum-bar running illegally from government space in the middle of a prime park in Sector 5 of Panchkula?

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Answer: A bullet through the skull of a policeman.

The policeman, recuperating at the PGIMER hospital now, was deployed in the security of a Punjab IAS officer posted in Delhi, but was 'guarding' the officer's son on New Year's Eve at a party hosted at the illegal resto-bar, called '5 Degrees'. The theory so far is that he shot himself accidentally after the party was over. A mystery remains as he is still said to be unfit to give a statement.

The bullet shot the resto-bar into limelight, but even after the HUDA discovered '5 Degrees' on December 26, it took another two weeks to seal the premises - the action coming six days after the HUDA estate officer had already declared it "illegal occupation". The utter brazenness of the operators and the induced lethargy of the HUDA are on display for all.    http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2014/1/MOH-SA-Li_%20Seal%20300_compressed.jpg 

But if you are a law-abiding citizen who loves to jump the red light when no one's looking, there are lessons to learn from this episode. Let's call them five takeaways from 5 Degrees.

First, you can simply walk into a park, take over public premises earmarked for a chai-coffee-sandwich restaurant, and turn it into glass-walled swanky pub. At least that's what the HUDA wants us to believe. Even if you have only won the bid to run a restaurant, and have not yet signed any agreement, no one will notice the arrival of construction material, the time it takes to build such a glasshouse, and the stocking of several crates of alcohol displayed on wall-mounted shelves.

Two, the police are particularly cooperative on party nights. The illegal resto-bar is in what is essentially a public park, where the police are supposed to keep a vigil. There was a booze party at this resto-bar to celebrate the arrival of 2014, without a bar licence. And the police - who claimed to be out in hundreds on NYE, and whose religious dislike for drunken parties is universally acknowledged - never checked if everything was in order. Rest assured, now, no cops will bother you the next time you hold a party in a park but do not have a liquor licence. Unless, someone gets shot.

Third, the manager, who first told the media that the place was 'owned' by the IAS officer in question and other influential persons, was lying. Please believe that the place was indeed being run, albeit illegally, by a man who earlier owned a hookah bar. The presence of the sons of an IAS officer and a top cop from Amritsar was purely coincidental. Did someone say proxy?

Then, we must acknowledge that the IAS officer's son needed security, even though it was against the rules. Naysayers say the cops were provided to the IAS officer illegally in the first place. But, no, the tall claims of the Punjab DGP about pruning VIP security do not apply to this officer. The security has since been withdrawn, and a probe ordered under media pressure. Oh God, who will ensure the security of The VIP Son now?

The fifth takeaway is: This, too, shall pass. It is a matter of time that the HUDA goes off to sleep again in Sector 6, right next to where 5 Degrees is. The MLA, who conducted a 'raid' at the rest-bar after the shooting, will move on to other photo-ops. The IAS officer's son will have to bear a scolding at home. Poor kid! A hefty fine and some building alterations later, the party will be on again.

There can, however, be a twist to my prediction. If, the cop "who shot himself" says something that reveals what exactly happened that night. Uncle, please don't spoil the party. Listen to what Sri Sri Yo! Yo! Honey Singh Ji Maharaj has said: "Ye party yun hi chaaley-gee!"

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